Funding competition Biomedical catalyst 2017 round 3: early stage

Micro, small or medium-size UK companies can apply for a share of £10 million to work alone or with others on solving healthcare challenges.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The aim of this competition is to support the development of technologies and processes including:

  • disease prevention and proactive management of health and chronic conditions
  • earlier and better detection and diagnosis of disease, leading to better patient outcomes
  • tailored treatments that either change the underlying disease or offer potential cures

The biomedical catalyst has 4 types of funding award designed to support small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that are developing a product or process. It helps them progress from initial concept through to late-stage development.

Each type of award has a different scope and you should apply only if your project fits a specific competition scope.

You may only submit the same application to Innovate UK twice, so it is important that you do not submit an application with an incorrect scope.

This is an early-stage competition. We are looking to fund projects that enable SMEs to complete a data package sufficient to support the subsequent testing of their product or process in a clinical setting (or other relevant environment). The early-stage project can include:

  • experimental evaluation (lab scale)
  • use of in vitro and in vivo models (but not studies in humans or patients) to evaluate proof of concept and safety testing to appropriate regulatory standards
  • exploration of potential production mechanisms
  • early-stage prototyping
  • product development planning
  • intellectual property protection

Projects should last between one and 3 years and range between £250,000 and £4 million.

Funding type


Project size

Total project costs can range between £250,000 and £4 million.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

You must:

  • be a UK-based SME to lead the project
  • work on your own or with other UK SMEs or research organisations. If your project is academic-led, you should apply to the Medical Research Council instead
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • be ready to start your project by 1 June 2018 and finish by 1 June 2021

For all research organisations, the maximum level of project participation is 50% of total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, they must share this allocation.

Making more than one application and resubmissions

If you are a business, you can:

  • take part in no more than 3 applications in this competition round. You may only be the lead partner in one application
  • apply only twice with the same project to any Innovate UK competition. If you are not successful in the competition this means you can resubmit your application once more in another competition

If you are a business you can only lead one active project in any one biomedical catalyst category at any time. The categories are feasibility, primer, early-stage and late-stage.

The exception is when a new project is a direct progression from one award to the next category of award. For example, you may hold both a primer and an early-stage award. When the primer project finishes, you may apply in for an early-stage award to continue that specific programme of work, while still holding your original early-stage award.

We will ask you to provide evidence that you have enough resources to run 2 projects at the same time.

Projects that we won't fund

In this competition we won’t fund projects that:

1. Include work in humans such as clinical trials of safety or efficacy.

2. Are too early stage, for example:

  • basic research
  • generation of pure scientific and technological knowledge
  • development of research ideas, hypotheses and experimental designs without application
  • therapeutic, device or diagnostics projects which are not designed to generate a data package that supports testing of the product or process in a clinical setting

3. Are too close to market or are already at market, such as:

  • evaluations to inform labelling
  • laboratory accreditation
  • distribution or marketing activity
  • post-marketing studies
  • post-marketing surveillance

4. Include large organisations as partners.

Research categories

Your project may focus on technical feasibility or industrial research. This will depend on the challenge.

For technical feasibility studies and industrial research, you could get:

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Competition scope

The aim of the biomedical catalyst is to develop innovative solutions to health and care challenges. Each type of award has different scope and you should apply only if your project fits a specific competition scope.

The early-stage award enables SMEs to complete a data package sufficient to support subsequent testing of a product or process in a clinical setting (or other relevant environments). Early-stage award projects can include:

  • experimental evaluation (lab scale)
  • use of in vitro and in vivo models (but not human trials) to evaluate proof of concept and safety testing to appropriate regulatory standards
  • exploration of potential production mechanisms
  • early-stage prototyping
  • product development planning
  • intellectual property protection

We will support projects from any sector or discipline, including (but not limited to):

  • stratified healthcare (both therapy and diagnostic components)
  • regenerative medicine
  • diagnostics
  • enabling medical technologies and devices

Related competition

Not right for your project? We’re also running a digital health technology catalyst 2017.
31 July 2017
Competition opens
1 August 2017
Briefing event - watch the recording.
8 September 2017
Competition briefing Alderley Edge.
11 October 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
12 January 2018
Feedback and progression provided to interviewees.
25 January 2018
Feedback response deadline for interviewees.
1 February 2018
Presentations and presenter names submitted.
6 February 2018
Interviews begin.
7 February 2018
Interviews end.
23 February 2018 3:00pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

To start an application you must create an account as the lead applicant, or sign in as a representative of your organisation. Once you have an account you can track the progress of your application.

As a lead applicant:

  • you are responsible for collecting the information for your funding application
  • you can invite other organisations who will take part in the project as collaborators if your application is successful
  • you can invite colleagues to contribute to the application
  • your organisation will lead the project if your application is successful

Partner organisations can be other SMEs, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a successful application.

Research organisations

Research organisations may take part in applications as collaborators. The level of total research participation is a maximum of 50% of total eligible project costs.

If there is more than one research organisation taking part in the project, they must share the maximum 50% of eligible costs between them. By research organisation we mean a:

  • university
  • non-profit distributing research and technology organisation
  • Catapult
  • public sector research establishment
  • Research Council institute
  • charity
  • public sector organisation undertaking research

You will not be able to submit your application if your research participation is over the stated percentage for the competition.

Major awards committee

Applications for this competition are through a 2-step process:

1. Written application.

2. Presentation and interview by the major awards committee

Progression between stages will be by invitation only and informed by an independent expert review.

If your application meets this competition’s eligibility requirements, we will ask up to 5 external experts to assess it. These assessors are experts in the innovation area identified in your application. They will use scoring matrices and provide written feedback for each marked question.

We will then select a portfolio of projects. If your project is successful, we will invite you to an interview with the committee. These applications will:

  • be high-quality
  • range across the scope of the biomedical catalyst

We aim to build a portfolio that is consistent with the spend profile of available funding. Innovate UK reserves the right to maximise the funding available across high-quality projects. This means that the portfolio of projects funded may not follow a strict ranked sequence of the assessors’ scores, but they will all meet or exceed the agreed quality line throughout our independent external assessment process.

The major awards committee will score each project in line with scoring matrices. They will recommend a ranked list of applications for Innovate UK and its affinity partners to fund. They will provide short written feedback to all applicants who attend the interview panel.

The Medical Research Council may consider co-funding opportunities for high-quality projects that fall within their strategic priority areas.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

1. Project details

2. Application questions

3. Finances

1. Project details

In this section you will provide the details of your project. This section is not scored, but our assessors will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. Within project details you will need to complete:

Application details

The title of your project, the start date and project length. This section will also list you as the lead organisation and any partner organisations you have named as collaborators. The lead applicant must complete this section.

Project summary

Describe your project and what is innovative about it. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application so we need a summary of the innovation in your project.

It should cover, in brief:

  • the technological challenge, business need and market opportunity that you are addressing
  • the technical subject matter of work packages planned and the deliverables for this project (to allow us to select assessors with expertise in the type of work you have planned)
  • assuming successful completion of this project, what are the next steps?

Public description

Describe your project in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If your project is successful and awarded funding, Innovate UK will publish this description.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding. You must show how you have aligned most of your project’s objectives and activities with the scope of the biomedical catalyst early-stage. Each type of award has different scope and you should apply only if your project fits this specific competition scope.

2. Application questions

Independent assessors will score your answers to the questions in this section. You can get up to 10 points for each question. We have provided details of the minimum scores we expect you to achieve for each of the following 10 questions. You must achieve or exceed these expected scores or your application for funding will not be successful. You will receive feedback from the assessors on each answer you give.

Question 1: What is the healthcare need that this project addresses and what impacts will your solution have?

You must score at least 7 in this question.

Describe the healthcare challenge or issue that your project seeks to address. Supply evidence that the healthcare need is real and how your project will address this. Define the market that will generate demand for your proposed solution. How will the project outputs and/or the innovation lead to a commercial opportunity for your business?

How will the outputs of the project meet the healthcare need? Give any input you have from healthcare professionals, patients or representatives of the onward supply chain.

Quantify the potential positive impact on socio-economic factors and healthcare at a patient and community level. Detail the number of anticipated users and the benefits your solution will provide. Include estimated timescales.

Question 2: What is the underpinning scientific evidence to support your solution?

You must score at least 7 in this question.

Detail all relevant prior experimental/technical evidence which can explain how the previous results link to the proposed study. We expect all projects to progress robust prior research on your technology, product prototype or process. This includes demonstration in an appropriate model system. Outline any preclinical or clinical work you have conducted to date and the outcomes.

You may submit one appendix. This should present relevant figures such as chemical structures, graphs or schematics. The appendix should be a PDF no more than 1MB in size.

Question 3: What is innovative about your idea?

You must score at least 6 in this question.

Identify the extent to which the project is innovative. This should be from a commercial, scientific and/or technical perspective. Reference existing products and practices, both international and in the UK. You should include those both currently in use and those you know to be under development. Discuss the benefits and shortcomings of these (both technical and commercial) and compare them with your solution. This could include the results of competitor analyses or literature surveys.

In evaluating this section assessors will also consider if:

  • you have provided evidence that it will push boundaries beyond current leading-edge world science and technology
  • it is looking to apply existing technologies in new areas and what are the challenges in doing so
  • it could be innovative in the area of application

You should highlight the timeliness as well as the novelty of your research and/or proposed innovation. Explain these in an industrial and/or academic context.

Question 4: What technical approach will you adopt and how will you manage the project?

You must score at least 6 in this question.

Please provide an overview of the technical approach including the main objectives of the work.

Describe where you are now and where you want to get to at the end of the project. We call these deliverables. Describe the different stages of the project, referred to as work packages. Link the main areas of work together with their resource and management requirements.

Identify milestones and go / no-go points. In some instances, the major awards committee may approve projects but with a condition that they will review it at key milestones.

The assessors will also consider:

  • is the technical and methodological approach appropriate to the needs of the project? Are the innovative steps achievable through your proposed approach?
  • is the project plan detailed enough in comparison to the complexity of the project? For example, have you provided enough detail to allow assessors to understand the tasks involved and the resources required?
  • is any study design robust? Are the timings of key milestones realistic?
  • have you demonstrated sufficient resource commitment and capability to undertake the project?
  • are clear management reporting lines identified?

If relevant please compare and contrast alternative R&D strategies. Describe why your proposed approach will offer the best outcome.

Please provide justification for the use of animals or human subjects and the numbers of animals or samples that you will test. You must include relevant regulatory and ethical approval processes in your project planning.

You may submit one appendix to provide a detailed Gantt chart and information on your study design, protocol and approach. For example, experimental detail. This appendix should be a PDF no more than 1MB in size.

Question 5: Do you have the freedom to operate?

You must score at least 6 in this question.

Detail any existing intellectual property (IP) which may affect or which is relevant to project delivery and exploitation. State the ownership of this IP and, where necessary, how rights have been assigned. Provide evidence that you have freedom to operate without infringing other patents. For example, summarise the results of patent searches.

Detail the intellectual property that you expect to generate during or as a consequence of your project.

Describe your strategy for protecting the knowledge arising from the project. If yours is a collaborative project, how will you assign IP rights to project partners?

Question 6: How do you intend to exploit the opportunity?

You must score at least 6 in this question.

How will the outputs of this project take you nearer to your objectives? What will the steps be in this journey?

Describe how you will exploit these outputs including, where applicable:

  • the route to market (for example, direct sales, licensing)
  • reconfiguration of the value system
  • changes to business models and business processes
  • other methods of exploitation and protection

Provide evidence that the proposed solution would be commercially viable for the target market. You must consider issues such as the cost of manufacturing at launch and at scale, and pricing. You should describe the size of the market opportunities that this project would create. Include details of:

  • the current nature of the specific target markets. For example, is it characterised by price competition among commoditised suppliers? Is it dominated by a single leading firm? What are the channels to market?
  • the dynamics of this market. Provide estimates of current size, past and predicted growth rates
  • any anticipated disruptions from other technologies
  • how you would gain market share for the project outcome. You should take account of possible constraints on market access and penetration. This could include any potential competitors

Where the end point of your project will be an intermediate step towards commercialisation (such as out-licensing), describe:

  • any obstacles to the exploitation and commercialisation of your innovation
  • the estimated timescale to revenue generation. As far as possible, estimate the likely impact of the project outputs on your business and on your non-academic partners’ forecasts for annual turnover. For example, any licensing revenues, profit, exports and/or R&D spend. Where relevant, state this as a percentage of turnover and employment (in FTEs) for your last financial year

Question 7: What are the risks (technical, commercial and environmental) to project success? What is the project’s risk management strategy?

You need to score at least 6 in this question.

Innovate UK recognises that projects of this type are risky. We ask that you have adequate arrangements in place for managing this risk. Please focus on the arrangements for managing and mitigating risk as follows:

  • identify the key risks and uncertainties of the project
  • provide a detailed risk analysis for the project content and approach. Include the technical (including regulatory), commercial, managerial (such as managing stakeholders) and environmental risks. Also include other uncertainties, such as ethical issues associated with the project
  • develop a risk register, identifying the main risks as high/medium/low (H/M/L)
  • discuss the potential impact of these scenarios. State how the project would mitigate all significant and relevant risks
  • identify project management tools and mechanisms that you will use to minimise operational risk. This should include the arrangements for managing the consortium, where applicable

Question 8: Does the team have the right skills, experience and access to facilities to deliver the project and exploit it?

You need to score at least 6 in this question.

Please detail the expertise and track record of the project participants. You should include collaborators and subcontractors. This is to show your capability to deliver the project and exploit the output.

In evaluating this question, the assessors will also consider whether:

  • the project participants have the right mix of skills and experience to deliver a successful project
  • the project will access clinical / academic expertise where necessary and appropriate
  • the project builds the UK supply chain and addresses end-user needs
  • (collaborative projects only) the consortium’s formation objectives are clear. Is extra benefit gained from the collaboration, for example, increased knowledge transfer? Is the value of the consortium greater than the sum of its parts?
  • you are conducting the work in-house where possible. If you are using subcontractors, can you justify this decision and the choice of subcontractors?
  • the project has access to the appropriate facilities

If you are planning to use subcontractors from outside the UK you must provide evidence that no UK alternative exists. You must be able to justify your decision to use a non-UK contractor.

Question 9: What resources will you need to deliver the project and what is their cost?

You need to score at least 6 in this question.

State the anticipated total project cost. Be clear about how much project participants are contributing and how much grant funding you need.

Please use this section to detail the resources required to carry out the project. For example, this can include materials, capital equipment, infrastructure or people. Provide detailed costs for each and justify them. For example, provide quotations to evidence value for money. This should include all internal and external costs.

Costs must be consistent with the category of R&D being undertaken. Please see our funding rules guidance for more information on the rules for the various categories.

In evaluating the costs, assessors will consider the following questions:

  • is the budget realistic and justified for the scale and complexity of the project?
  • are budgets and resources for work packages adequate and justified?
  • is the allocation of costs transparent?
  • does the financial support you need fit within the limits set by the specific competition?
  • does the funding request provide value for public money?
  • have you explained how the partners will finance their contributions to the project?

Read the detailed guidance on eligible and ineligible project costs in our project costs guidance.

Where individuals have roles in 2 or more participating collaborative organisations, we will scrutinise costs.

Question 10: How does financial support from Innovate UK and its funding collaborators add value?

You must score at least 6 in this question.

Could this project could go ahead in any form without public funding? What difference would public funding make to your organisation? Give examples such as:

  • faster progress to market
  • ability to access expertise or specialist resources
  • support for pursuing a higher risk strategy
  • diversification

Tell us why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding. What would happen if your application is unsuccessful?

Explain how failure to secure public funding for this project would change the nature of R&D activity that you (and any collaborating partners) would undertake. How would it impact on your R&D spending over the next 3 years?

3. Finances

In this section you will need to provide project costs, organisational details and funding details for each organisation in your project. Academic partners will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. There are some types of cost which are not eligible. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Each organisation taking part in your project must enter their own project costs. Detailed costs are confidential to each organisation. All participants will be able to see a summary of all partners’ costs.

Background and further information

The biomedical catalyst is a partnership between Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC). It provides responsive and effective support to the most innovative life sciences opportunities regardless of scientific approach.

The catalyst evolved from the 2011 Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. It aims to de-risk innovative scientific ideas arising out of academia and industry. In this way it helps UK SMEs to develop into competitive and sustainable organisations to:

  • speed up the progress of novel products to market
  • support onward investment
  • bridge the 'valley of death' - the stage of development of an innovation where it is difficult to get private sector funding

An independent evaluation in 2015 confirmed that the biomedical catalyst is already achieving its goals by:

  • providing support to both academic and commercially-led research and development in a seamless, effective and efficient way (with at least 40% of supported companies originating in UK academia and many others with in-licensed academic intellectual property)
  • encouraging UK economic growth and leveraged investment into the healthcare and life sciences sectors (supported projects leveraged over £120 million of private funding against grant funding over the first 8 competition rounds)
  • delivering innovative life sciences products and services more quickly and effectively into healthcare, for example, through first-in-human studies

In autumn 2016, the government allocated £100 million to continue funding the catalyst for a further 4 years.

Innovate UK, the MRC and Scottish Enterprise fund biomedical catalyst awards.

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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